Find­ing the right fit


Coach­ing will not work for some­one who does not have a de­sire to learn and grow. Also, not all coaches will click. There is an el­e­ment of chem­istry that needs to be right for a proper fit. Ex­ec­u­tive coach­ing is, there­fore, rec­om­mended for busi­ness as a whole across all lev­els of lead­er­ship. If peo­ple are gen­uinely prime movers for the or­ga­ni­za­tion, ad­e­quate sup­port for train­ing and de­vel­op­ment should al­ways be made avail­able through­out the ca­reer of an in­di­vid­ual. Here lies the suc­cess of the in­di­vid­ual and the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

As global com­pe­ti­tion in­ten­si­fies, vi­sion­ary com­pa­nies are in­vest­ing in a pipe­line of emerg­ing ex­ec­u­tives who can be their com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. To­day, com­pe­ten­cies like busi­ness acu­men and team lead­er­ship are be­ing re­placed with those like crit­i­cal think­ing and learn­ing agility. Rather than move peo­ple lat­er­ally, we should think of de­vel­op­ment as help­ing the in­di­vid­u­als to grow, ex­pand, and in­te­grate the dif­fer­ent com­po­nents of their per­son­al­i­ties and their lives.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions now have pre­de­ter­mined com­pe­ten­cies they ex­pect em­ploy­ees at each level to pos­sess. So, if they iden­tify a gap in em­ploy­ees’ skill sets, then they en­cour­age them to take up ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams to help them reach their full po­ten­tial. Typ­i­cally, the du­ra­tion of ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion will de­pend on var­i­ous fac­tors:

■ Gaps to be ad­dressed

■ Sever­ity of the prob­lem/s ■ Time con­straints

■ Present level of mo­ti­va­tion ■ Com­pany sup­port for in­di­vid­u­als, and

■ Other re­sources which are avail­able

To­day, there is a high de­mand for com­pe­tency-based cour­ses; and in cus­tom­ized pro­grams the fo­cus is on cus­tomiza­tion to a T. Com­pa­nies also as­sess the im­pact of the pro­gram on the or­ga­ni­za­tion—cost sav­ing, work hours saved, and most im­por­tantly how it has im­proved pro­duc­tiv­ity. Cus­tom­ized pro­grams of­fered to em­ploy­ees at dif­fer­ent lev­els of a com­pany rep­re­sent the fastest grow­ing seg­ment of the mar­ket. Open, off-the-shelf, box pro­grams also are avail­able as part of ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion of­fer­ings, which hap­pen through­out the year on se­lect dates, and are open to par­tic­i­pants of dif­fer­ent lev­els from dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions. Short­du­ra­tion pro­grams fo­cus on spe­cific roles, or do­main ex­per­tise, or spe­cific lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment skills, such as in­flu­enc­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion, self and in­ter­per­sonal per­sua­sion, ne­go­ti­a­tion, team build­ing, and un­der­stand­ing re­la­tions.

Man­age­ment de­vel­op­ment pro­grams (MDPs) help or­ga­ni­za­tions in­crease their man­age­ment ca­pa­bil­ity by com­bin­ing the science of busi­ness and per­for­mance man­age­ment in spe­cial­ized pro­grams that en­able ex­ec­u­tives to de­velop new knowl­edge, skills, and at­ti­tudes. Knowl­edge trans­lates into the ca­pa­bil­ity an or­ga­ni­za­tion ap­plies to its prod­ucts and ser­vices. Re­search

shows or­ga­ni­za­tions that have clear, ar­tic­u­lated, and well-un­der­stood busi­ness and ca­pa­bil­ity strate­gies will have a higher mar­ket-to-book value than oth­ers. This calls for an in­ner quest for learn­ing and per­sonal de­vel­op­ment at all times. This is where con­tin­u­ing ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion helps; and if sup­ported by good men­tor­ing and coach­ing, it is all the more bet­ter for young lead­ers as­pir­ing to rise to se­nior po­si­tions.

In­crease in coach­ing in ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams fol­lows a grow­ing ac­cep­tance of coaches work­ing closely and suc­cess­fully with ex­ec­u­tives in var­ied in­dus­tries—to­day, it is com­mon to see many se­nior peo­ple proudly re­fer to oth­ers as ‘my coach.’ This has led to an in­creas­ing de­mand for fac­ulty spe­cial­iz­ing in lead­er­ship and a cor­re­spond­ing need for coaches to work within pro­grams. It is kind of a triple win-win for clients, for fac­ulty, and for coaches.

Mas­ter­ing in­di­vid­ual com­pe­ten­cies with­out the abil­ity to trans­late those into mea­sure­able be­hav­io­r­ial change and busi­ness re­sults is a model not likely to re­ceive con­tin­u­ous sup­port from busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tions. Ex­ec­u­tive coach­ing is a dy­namic way to help in­di­vid­u­als know where they have come from and where they want to see them­selves in the fu­ture.

Coach­ing comes in a va­ri­ety of fla­vors, but the goal is to help in­di­vid­u­als be the very best as lead­ers, de­velop them holis­ti­cally. For­mer Google CEO Eric Sch­midt says the best ad­vice he ever got was to get a coach. Bill Gates em­phat­i­cally says every­one should have a coach. Ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Fred Wil­son ad­vo­cates coach­ing too, es­pe­cially for first-time CEOs. Ac­cord­ing to Mark Skin­ner, Se­nior Ex­ec­u­tive Coach at IMD, one-on-one time with a coach of­fers a rare, highly val­ued op­por­tu­nity for an ex­ec­u­tive to be heard, un­der­stood and chal­lenged by an ob­jec­tive, non­judg­men­tal open mind it can of­ten be a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

A coach can of­fer guid­ance to put in place a strate­gic growth plan, bring to life com­pany val­ues, work through stress­ful in­ter­per­sonal sit­u­a­tions, and re­solve any con­flicts be­tween em­ploy­ees.

Tra­di­tional aca­demic thought lead­er­ship in a com­plex world needs to be trans­lated by in­di­vid­ual ex­ec­u­tives into learn­ing that can be ap­plied to the unique­ness of their own sit­u­a­tion. Coaches can help in­di­vid­u­als se­lect and ap­ply ideas from their ex­pe­ri­ence and learn­ings to make a sus­tain­able im­pact.

A coach helps an in­di­vid­ual in many ways:

■ Un­der­stand­ing one­self, how one is per­ceived, and ar­eas of con­cern ■ Mak­ing one aware of blind are­nas ■ Help­ing build aware­ness of val­ues, be­liefs, and at­ti­tudes that may hin­der growth ■ Pro­vid­ing sup­port and con­fi­dence to take on risks and new chal­lenges

■ De­vel­op­ing emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, em­pa­thy, and en­cour­age­ment

■ Of­fer­ing sup­port for spe­cific skills—com­mu­ni­ca­tion, del­e­ga­tion, con­flict man­age­ment, team build­ing, per­sua­sion, ne­go­ti­a­tion, self-un­der­stand­ing, etc.

In coach­ing, de­vel­op­ment can be tar­geted and truly in­di­vid­u­alised; im­pact can be mea­sured fairly im­me­di­ately and it can be a dis­crete and quiet in­ter­ven­tion.

Collins and Holton (2004) sug­gest there is a short­age of com­pe­tent,

Coach­ing comes in a va­ri­ety of fla­vors, but the goal is to help in­di­vid­u­als be the very best as a leader, de­velop them holis­ti­cally. For­mer Google CEO Eric Sch­midt says the best ad­vice he ever got was to get a coach.

ef­fec­tive lead­ers in busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tions. The se­nior lead­er­ship in many com­pa­nies com­prise baby boomers ap­proach­ing re­tire­ment age, and as a re­sult, there is an im­me­di­ate need to de­velop younger ef­fec­tive lead­ers (Peter­son, Deal, & Gailor-Loflin, 2003). In gen­eral, or­ga­ni­za­tions are un­easy about their em­ploy­ees’ in­ad­e­quate lead­er­ship skills, and are com­mit­ted to for­mal ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing to help de­velop their younger em­ploy­ees’ man­age­ment skills, com­pe­ten­cies, and abil­i­ties (Conger & Ben­jamin, 1999).

It is im­por­tant to re­al­ize that in this VUCA world, a good per­former to­day need not nec­es­sar­ily be good in the fol­low­ing years. Con­stant, con­sis­tent upgra­da­tion and sup­port need to be pro­vided by HR and busi­ness heads.

Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view con­ducted a sur­vey of 140 lead­ing coaches and in­vited five ex­perts to com­ment on the find­ings. Com­men­ta­tors and coaches alike felt that the bar needs to be raised in var­i­ous ar­eas for the in­dus­try to ma­ture, but there was no con­sen­sus on how that could be done. They did gen­er­ally agree, how­ever, that the rea­sons com­pa­nies en­gage coaches have changed. Ten years ago, most com­pa­nies en­gaged a coach to help fix toxic be­hav­ior at the top. To­day, most coach­ing is about de­vel­op­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of high-po­ten­tial per­form­ers. As a re­sult of this broader mis­sion, there is a lot more fuzzi­ness around such is­sues as to how coaches de­fine the scope of en­gage­ments, how they mea­sure and re­port on progress, and the cre­den­tials a com­pany should use to se­lect a coach.

David Gray makes a strong ar­gu­ment that coaches serve as ed­u­ca­tors. Coach­ing is said to work be­cause it fa­cil­i­tates ac­tion learn­ing. Ac­cord­ing to him, clients take ac­tion and learn, which leads to more ac­tion based upon what they learned, which leads to more learn­ing, etc.

Ram Cha­ran, in an ar­ti­cle in HBR, says, “There’s no ques­tion that fu­ture lead­ers will need con­stant coach­ing. As the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment be­comes more com­plex, they will in­creas­ingly turn to coaches for help in un­der­stand­ing how to act. The kind of coaches I am talk­ing about will do more than in­flu­ence be­hav­iors; they will be an es­sen­tial

It is im­por­tant to re­al­ize in this VUCA world a good per­former to­day need not nec­es­sar­ily be good in the fol­low­ing years. Con­stant, con­sis­tent upgra­da­tion, and sup­port need to be pro­vided by HR and busi­ness heads.

part of the leader’s learn­ing process, pro­vid­ing knowl­edge, opin­ions, and judg­ment in crit­i­cal ar­eas. These coaches will be re­tired CEOs or other ex­perts from univer­si­ties, think tanks, and gov­ern­ment.”


Coach­ing as a busi­ness tool con­tin­ues to gain le­git­i­macy, but the fun­da­men­tals of the in­dus­try are still in flux. Diane Couty and Carol Kauff­mak say, “A big prob­lem that to­mor­row’s pro­fes­sional coach­ing firm must re­solve is the dif­fi­culty of mea­sur­ing per­for­mance, as the coaches them­selves point out in the sur­vey. I’m aware of no re­search that has fol­lowed coached ex­ec­u­tives over long pe­ri­ods; most of the ev­i­dence around ef­fec­tive­ness re­mains anec­do­tal. My sense is that the pos­i­tive sto­ries out­num­ber the neg­a­tive ones—but as the in­dus­try ma­tures, coach­ing firms will need to be able to demon­strate how they bring about change, as well as of­fer a clear method­ol­ogy for mea­sur­ing re­sults.” ■


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